Running Backs Coach Burton Burns
August 26, 2020
Q: You come from college where there are not any preseason games. How much do you think in the NFL a running back like Saquon Barkley and these other guys need to get knocked around a little bit. Need to get tackled, need to show they can hold on to the ball. You’re not going to have any of that stuff really.
A: Even in college, a big part of it was practice, and the way you practiced. Not necessarily bringing guys to the ground, but you can practice at a tempo where they are getting some of the bumps that they need to have to be able to play in the game. We’re following that format. You try to create some situations in practice where they are going to get bumped up a little bit. It was rare that we had a lot of scrimmages, even in college.
Q: I was wondering what your impression of Javon Leake has been since you have gotten a hand on him and been able to coach him up. Especially with these padded practices.
A: I think he is working really hard. What we try to do is we try to expose these guys to as many fundamentals as possible. Across the board, we try to coach these guys fundamentally. I always have said football plays are football plays, it’s the way you run them. I think he has made some progress with improving his fundamentals and paying attention to detail. It’s like anything else, it’s a transitional period when a guy is coming from college to the pros. It’s like it was when he came from high school. He’s making good progress, getting in touch with how to fundamentally run plays.
Q: I see you guys working with Saquon on pass protection every day in an individual drill or an individual period. How big of an emphasis has that been through the offseason and camp? How is he taking to the regular drilling on that?
A: I think pass protection is like any other technique that we have, that we practice, running the ball, running routes. I think this has always been my routine and that was one of the three things that we really have to be good at. We just continue to try to work on technique and try to pay attention to the details of how to run the ball, how to run routes, and how to protect. It’s not just that we are emphasizing that, we have made it across the board. A coaching point that we wanted to get, not only for Saquon but for everybody else.
Q: You don’t think the tape last year showed that he needed to improve specifically there?
A: My opinion about that kind of stuff is I’m never really worried about what happened last year. Let’s start all over, we are starting now, today. This is how we want to technically do our job based on the scheme of the offense. I’m not going to judge on what happened last year.
Q: Talking to Dion Lewis last night, he’s been praised for his pass protection. His eyes kind of lit up a little bit talking about how it’s a three-second fight that you have to win. Is there an art to being a good pass protector as a running back?
A: Obviously, it’s technique. It comes out in technique, it doesn’t matter how big or small you are, it’s technique. It’s one of the fundamentals that we are always preaching and coaching every day. Let’s have good pad level, let’s have good balance. I think that plays into not only running the football, but it also plays into the protection part of it. It’s timing, everything is about timing. That’s why we continue to work on the technique and the timing and getting in the right position. After a while it becomes as normal as running the football. It’s an art, like running a good downhill running play is an art. You have to utilize all your different fundamental skills to get that done.
Q: What do you think about the possibility that Saquon can be an even bigger factor in the passing game than he has been in the past?
A: Obviously, he is a talented individual. He’s got great athletic ability, running the ball, catching the ball. I think we are just going to let the flow of the offense take care of all of that. I think we have a good system and we have good balance in our system. We are going ask all of our players to not only have the ability to do not only running the ball, being involved in the passing game. It carries over to the protection thing as well. I think as the flow of the offense goes, we’ll just see where his abilities bring him to.
Q: What about his skill set? Do you see that skill set there to be a huge factor in the passing game?
A: He’s athletic and he’s got great hands. He has a great ability to run routes. Again, we want to involve this guy in every facet of the game. We are going to let the flow of the offense happen and get him involved when we can.
Q: Exactly four years ago today, Colin Kaepernick started his protest and it became public. We’ve seen the league change their tune. I’m just curious on why you think the league has been so receptive. Can you reflect on the last four years and talk about what the turning point was?
A: Obviously, I was not in the NFL. I have been in college football. I think the whole thing is just a concern, a concern for human nature. Everybody is trying to get along with each other. I’m not sure exactly what the NFL had been doing, I wasn’t following it that much. In general, socially, it’s a time where people are trying to understand each other better so we can get along better.